Church leaders question alcohol ordinance over stadium negotiations

by: John Bachman Updated:

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has received new insight into the negotiations to put the new Falcons stadium on the preferred site south of the current dome.

Mayor Kasim Reed met Tuesday with leaders from one church that would have to move. A church leader told Channel 2's John Bachman Wednesday that the meeting went well, but there is one question about alcohol sales.

"We made good progress. It was a very productive meeting," said Lloyd Hawk, board chairman of Friendship Baptist Church, the church that would have to move.

Hawk said the meeting was productive, but there's still no done deal. It's become a back-and-forth negotiation with Friendship Baptist Church at stake.

The city of Atlanta offered the church $15.5 million to move to make room for the Falcons' new $1 billion stadium south of the current dome.

However, the church initially rejected the $15.5 million offer, so the city's chief operating officer issued a memo.

The memo said, in part, "That the city continues to support plans to build a new stadium on the south site and evaluate the site options attached, which may not necessitate the acquisition and reconstruction of Friendship Church."

"Looking at the revised drawings of situating the stadium closely behind the church, we're not sure that fits the 100-yard ordinance," Hawk said.

One-hundred yards is Georgia's minimum distance between a church and alcohol sales.

A legal expert told Bachman the distance is measured from the front door of the church to the front door of the building in question, using the nearest sidewalks.

Bachman got a measuring wheel and started measuring. One-hundred yards away, he didn't even make it across Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. He was still outside the front sign for Friendship Baptist Church.

Sources with the Georgia World Congress Center and the city both confirmed that would not likely be an issue.

Even Hawk said it likely won't be an issue because he's confident the church will reach a deal that's good for the church and the city.

"I think that we'll be in a position where we can work out something for everyone and that the proposal of having the church under the shadow of the stadium won't occur," Hawk said.

The two sides are planning to meet again next week.